New analysis and research from EY commissioned by Improbable today reveals that over a 10 year period, adopting a platform approach to developing synthetic environments across UK defence, could deliver quantitative benefits in excess of £3bn. Synthetic environment (SE) technology is a critical enabler of multi-domain integration and vital for delivering the digital ambition set out recently in the UK’s 2021 Integrated Review and the MoD’s Digital Strategy for Defence. Often referred to as ‘digital twins’ or ‘virtual worlds’, synthetic environments are digital versions of chosen environments, whether that’s physical (e.g. a city), non-physical (e.g. a social network) or a mix of both.
The Digital Backbone’s Single Synthetic Environment aims to bring together the data streams, models and AI from across government, industry and academia to drive the creation of multiple synthetic environment solutions to support critical functions across Defence. Taking a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) approach to an SSE would enable MoD to establish a collaborative SE “solution factory” that harnesses the combined resources of established suppliers and those of SMEs and providers beyond the traditional defence base.
Furthermore, a PasS approach to an SSE changes how synthetic environment solutions are procured, developed and evolved, and moves away from the linear delivery of siloed projects and towards a far more agile, integrated and adaptable delivery that shares data and component capabilities across solutions. A PaaS SSE will then ultimately allow all branches of the UK Armed Forces and their allies to train, plan and operate together through more coordinated synthetic environments. For the first time, EY’s analysis has found that adoption of a platform approach to the UK’s digital backbone’s single synthetic environment could provide the following financial benefits to the UK:
- £1.3bn in direct cost benefits to the MoD, including £810m from reduced content development costs, and £450m from reduced back end support costs
- £1bn-£1.5bn in indirect cost benefits to the MoD, including the benefits of better decision making, reduction of spending on R&D, and the benefits to the environment
- £300m-£750m in wider economic benefits for the UK, including UK export opportunities and innovation spill overs
This is in addition to the qualitative benefits of this approach, including:
- Greater interoperability: A simplification for different branches of the Armed Forces looking to work together, and with their allies
- Rapid access to context and insights: A reduction in barriers to content suppliers, providing greater supply chain diversity, competition and innovation, including from smaller innovative UK tech companies
- A reduced impact on the environment: A SSE reduced the need to travel, use carbon-heavy equipment in live testing and expend resources like ammunition
The MoD has been working on trial programmes with companies including Improbable, a UK technology company that works across the NATO alliance to combine computational modelling, AI, data analytics and other skills and knowledge relevant to defence and national security applications. The Improbable synthetic environment platform and partner ecosystem offer a powerful, flexible and secure platform, for delivering simulations and synthetic environments tailored to the needs of the defence community.